Study: Teen Suicide Attempts Fall After Same-sex Marriage Made Legal

Suicide attempts among teens, particularly those who are gay, lesbian and bisexual, declined in states that legalized same-sex marriage, according to a new study.

Writing in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, researchers from Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health say their study showed that in states that legalized same-sex marriage before the U.S. Supreme Court followed suit saw declines in attempted suicide.

Specifically, the researchers analyzed data from 1999 to 2015 and found a 7 percent reduction in suicide attempts of high school-aged youngsters in 32 states that had already legalized same-sex marriage. Among gays, lesbians and bisexuals, the decrease was 14 percent, researchers say.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for U.S. teens, but occurs at a higher rate among gay, lesbian and bisexual kids. For example, 29 percent of LGBT teens in the study reported a suicide attempt, compared to just 6 percent among heterosexual teens.

Researchers say the study does not prove a connection between same-sex marriage and suicide as much of the data is self reported; but, they do theorize that perhaps laws that are for gay adults may send a message to teens to feel “more hopeful for the future,” said lead author Julia Raifman, a researcher at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

For their study, researchers looked at data from more than 700,000 public high school students who took part in government survey about risky behavior from 1999 to 2015, which is the year same-sex marriage was declared legal by the Supreme Court. Of those, more than 213,000 identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual. Surveys did not ask about students who said they were transgender or queer.

To hone in more on the connection between suicide and gays, lesbians and bisexuals, future researchers will need to account for economic status and religion, among other things, according to the study.

“There is a need for further research to understand the association between sexual minority rights, stigma and sexual minority health,” according to the study.

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